Tropical Cyclone Seroja hit the region over Easter weekend 2021 causing natural disasters in Timor-Leste that was not seen in nearly 50 years. Upon the request of the Government to the UN system to help with the needs assessment, UNDP took on technical lead   in conducting the Housing and Building Damage Assessment (HBDA) in June 2021.

The main objectives of the HBDA were two-folds: 1) to assess damage caused to buildings, in addition to the livelihood needs and conditions and needs of the flood-affected households; 2) to feed into the Post Disaster Needs Assessments (PDNA) to inform recovery planning.

The HBDA was jointly conducted by UNDP Timor-Leste, UNDP SURGE Data Hub, UNTL’s Civil Engineering Department, and the General Directorate of Statistics.  This was supported by the General Directorate for Rural Development and Secretary of State for Civil Protection. 5 most affected municipalities were covered by the HBDA namely Dili, Liquiça, Manatuto, Baucau and Ainaro. 928 buildings were assessed, and 860 households were surveyed for the livelihoods including 20 commercial businesses.

90% of the households reported decline in household income because of the Easter floods. Damage to equipment, damage to finished products, shortage/lack of raw materials and productivity decline were the most cited reasons for affecting business following the floods. The HBDA also shows that about 80% of the surveyed buildings had suffered some structural damage, 12.7% buildings are fully collapsed and 8.8% are severely damaged. Recommendations for the proposed build-back-better were fed into PDNA which has been presented to the Government led by the office of Vice Prime Minister and Minister of Planning and Territorial Ordinance.

The overall findings and recommendations from HBDA were shared with the government partners at the end of July 2021. The final report of HBDA was officially launched and handed over to government through the Ministry of State Administration on 15 November 2021.

In her opening remarks, Ms. Tuya Altangerel – Resident Representative of UNDP – highlighted the key findings of the HBDA including some of the recommendations for the Build-Back-Better has been incorporated into PDNA. She further stated that “The UNDP team stands ready to support the Government and partners to take forward the findings and recommendations emerging from the HBDA, and we continue supporting the Government in setting the vision and priorities in building more climate resilient society”.

Minister of State Administration, H.E. Dr. Miguel Pereira de Carvalho thanked UNDP for leading the HBDA works. He welcomed the results and recommendations therein which complement the gaps of data and information possessed by the Government by reiterating that “the report will provide useful information for the government to make its plans particularly in preparation for another year of La Niña that has been forecasted to affect the region including Timor-Leste between now and April 2022”.

The results of the HBDA were welcomed by participants present in the launching including senior government officials, development partners and civil society organizations. Among the feedbacks received during discussions was the necessity of having closer collaboration in the future between government, public institutions, agencies, and community.   

To conclude, Mr. Silvino Lopes – National Director of Systems and Reports of the office of General Directorate of Statistics – highlighted the importance of data in making informed decisions. He said that “people often argue that data collection is an expensive exercise which is true, however, it will be more expensive to design and build an infrastructure without data”.

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